Libearty Bear Sanctuary

Nature Reserve in Zărnesţi

Not enough time to join a bear hide excursion to see these impressive carnivores lumbering through their natural habitat? Libearty Sanctuary is the next best thing. This 69-hectare enclosure is the leafy retirement home of former captive bears, most of whom endured horrific confinement (and sometimes torture) at the hands of circuses, zoos and private owners. Visits are by guided tour, at times when bears approach the fences for some of the tasty entrails thrown their way by staff. It's 7km east of Zărnesţi.

Romania outlawed the keeping of wild bears in 2005. Most of the bears at the sanctuary are Romanian, but some have been rescued from as far afield as Albania and Texas. The giant of the sanctuary, at 400 kilos, hails from Armenia. It's impressive to see these enormous mammals but undeniably sad to see scars of what they endured: some pace in circles, despite the abundant space. You may also spot tiny deer or the nine wolves who also make their home here.

Many local hostels and guesthouses offer tours, sometimes combined with Bran Castle; otherwise it's a 45-minute drive from Braşov (the last few minutes along an exceedingly bumpy gravel road). Call ahead outside high season as the sanctuary requires 10 visitors to guarantee a tour.